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on 7 September 2016
My daughter had to buy this book for her English Literature GCSE Exam and she told me it was very convenient. The pages that summarise the chapter helped her find the main points she needed to revise for her exams. They were also a useful way to go back and remember what happened without having to re-read the entire chapter.

There were questions at the end of the book that you could answer that helped her to understand the context, content, author and characters better.

My daughter tells me Of Mice and Men is a detailed and intricate story written in the 1930s by John Steinbeck. It tells the story of George and Lennie, two migrant ranch workers, sharing a dream of one day owning their own ranch and also their struggle of trying to survive due to lack of money. The book also includes the most important issues regarding society in America during the great depression which were my daughters GCSE topics for this novel such as racism, sexism, prejudice and the American Dream. It is a highly thought provoking story wherein the simplest of sentences has a profound deeper meaning.

Overall it’s a very good book with useful summarised pages and questions that make it easy to understand and use as a revision tool for GCSE English Literature. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who either is doing this for their GCSEs or has a teenager that is.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 February 2015
The film, `Of Mice and Men,' - 1992 version, will always be one of my favourites. It encouraged me read this book. Firstly, I was amazed at just how short the book is at 150 pages! It's a book you can read in day with time to spare! The story though, still comes across as just fine and is never less than interesting and engaging with many topical points to dwell on.
This particular book is also written for GCSE study, which I don't intend to comment on, as many have already done so.
For me the main player here, and centre of attention, is Lennie. He is intellectually disabled, with a childlike imagination. A comparison to some degree would be Forest Gump or `Karl' from `Sling Blade.'
He drifts during the Great Depression, and looks for work under Roosevelt's 'New Deal' , with his best and only friend George, who continually mothers him and keeps him out of mischief. They are like chalk and cheese but need each other? They follow the American dream of one day owning their own bit of land - it eventually transpires that they are not the only ones?
Eventually they end up on a farm in California and this is where we meet several different characters and the story unfolds. Steinbeck's writing style describes them all perfectly well and this is a feature of his writing. It is also quite clear that he is very knowledgeable about farm life and also the countryside that surrounds it.
Whilst I'd seen the film first, I still found the book totally engaging, even though it was very similar to the film. The characters (including the leads) do leave a lasting impression and stir the old grey matter! They are all so different - even though the tale is so brief. They raise questions of: loyalty, pity, vulnerability, sadness, anger & inferiority, loneliness / isolation and of course, from that period - racism.
Finally, what helps to make this book such an interesting read is the dialogue and slang used - the book's glossary is very helpful.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 March 2018
Well, somehow I've managed to read close to 800 books by now, and none of those had been Of Mice and Men. That has been remedied now, and I'm feeling emotionally drained by it. So yeah.

I suppose pretty much everyone knows the heartbreaking story of Lennie and George. I was relatively 'unspoiled' and still knew what happened in the end. I just did not know how or why, but figured out those pretty quickly into the book. And still that did not help the sense of impending doom that was like one protracted gut punch. I think that says something about the masterful writing - where the story takes over so much that you keep reading despite the clear sense of where it is going, without having to rely on suspense or twists - instead, going forward just on the impact of the story itself
"I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn't ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog."
I used to work with Special Education kids some time ago. And I have seen first-hand what Steinbeck describes in Of Mice and Men - the childlike vulnerability and innocence often combined with physical strength, just waiting for something bad to happen. The children we took care of - some of which topped my 5'3'' frame by a foot or so and outweighed me by a good hundred pounds (but despite that a few times I had to physically put myself on between them and a smaller child) - had, unlike Lennie, the society that is determined to protect them. They were luckier than poor George's charge. But I could not help but picture some of them, who have forever secured spots in my heart, in place of Lennie Small, feeling nothing but dread and sadness. Lennie, who is as innocent as one gets, and yet as much of a unwilling menace as one can be. And it was soul-crushing.

I think the impact of this story was that it did not have me taking sides. I felt bad for Lennie. I felt awful for Curley's wife who does not even have a NAME in this story. I felt sad for George and what he had to do. And I felt bad for the whole bunch of men who had names and stories, and a woman who got one but not the other.
"You God damn tramp," be said viciously. "You done it, di'n't you? I s'pose you're glad. Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up. You wasn't no good. You ain't no good now, you lousy tart."
And that's where this book lost stars for me. Curley's wife, the unwilling almost-antagonist/victim of this story. The woman who had no name except for the possessive one of her husband whose property - and therefore trouble for everyone else - she was viewed as. It seemed that she was the one getting the blame, not as much the crazy volatile husband of hers. After all, she *asked* for trouble, didn't she? At least that's the nagging feeling I got from this story, from the way her character was handled, from the way it was repeatedly stated that a 'tart' like her meant trouble for a man. Blame-the-victim mentality does not sit well with me, and I can't help but think that Steinbeck did that. (view spoiler).

This book is definitely a classic with a profound impact on the reader, a short read that is in no way easy. It deserves the fame and recognition that it has enjoyed for quite a few years. 3.5 stars from me (it would have been 4.5 stars, but for the literary treatment of Curley's wife).
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on 8 February 2016
Of Mice and Men is a well-known classic, and with valid reason. The book may seem rather boring (as many books about the Great Depression may seem) but it is actually a great tribute to literature.

Steinbeck is a great writer who makes brilliant use of description for his characters and in his reflective prose shows how children are, in some cases, better people than adults in the way that they do not judge or do not see people or things from that point of view.

The book shows some of the other characters' feelings about the situations they are being put in and shows how Steinbeck feels about racism and sexism. The book covers a variety of topics including racism, sexism, the Depression, in very little time. A well written though-provoking book that is a must read for anyone.
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on 22 February 2016
It's a short story really - I was surprised by its brevity considering its vaunted literary status.

Nothing wrong with it exactly. An economical, tightly composed, tragic tale of a man, Lennie Small, not quite meant for this world. His clumsy, brute physicality, combined with his mental simplicity, an accident waiting to happen. And about his tender friendship, of course, with the patient and stalwart, George Milton.

Perhaps the outcome is too heavily telegraphed, and the men's Californian dream of land and plenty overplayed to mawkish excess? Still, there's no doubt it packs a punch in a cool, understated, no nonsense way. But, ah, those goddam rabbits!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 March 2018
It's difficult to believe this was first published some 80 years ago; it still feels fresh and relevant. I first read it some 50 years ago. At the time, I think I was swept away by Grapes of Wrath, a more detailed work compared to this novella.

Revisiting the text, I understand why it's a true classic. Although very short, Steinbeck, explores so many themes through the story of the two central and very different characters. Both are migrant workers during the Depression and this resonates with current movement of people and austerity, worldwide. The themes explored are universal and timeless. Loneliness, loss, impoverishment, intellectual challenges for example. It's not all quite PC, but don't let that detract you. It's much more than a set text; it explores the human condition with conviction and persuasion.
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on 21 August 2015
While the focus of the book is on FDR's funeral train as it makes its way from Georgia to his final resting place in Hyde Park (with a brief stopover in Washington), the story also covers those first few hours of Truman's presidency. For those interested in American history, this book gives a compelling glimpse of those uneasy hours as the old Roosevelt staff moves over for the new Truman one and Truman, himself, lays down the foundation and direction of the new presidency. There's also some background info on Roosevelt's personal life and an attempt to portray the very real mixed emotions of his wife Eleanor. The part about the spy, however, is very brief and takes up maybe one or two pages in the whole book. One strong image you retain from reading, however, is how loved Franklin Roosevelt was when he died. The author writes time and again how many people stood for hours at the most difficult times of the day just to get a glimpse of the funeral train pass. And he states that many of those people were crying. This part of the book is quite moving.

That said, the author is an expert on trains and, therefore, the book has a tremendous amount of detailed description about every physical aspect of the funeral train itself. This can be somewhat tedious if you are reading this book more for the history, rather than the technical stuff. Still, it is by no means dull and it is definitely worth reading if you are interested in the subject.

One little mistake I noticed in the book, however, is on page 125. He claims that American citizenship is forfeited automatically when an American citizen lives outside the country for more than five years. He says this in the present tense, as if it is possible even today. According to what I have read, "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Afroyim v. Rusk in 1967 that someone who was born or naturalized in the U.S. was constitutionally protected from losing their U.S. citizenship involuntarily, "involuntarily" as in without their intent to do so." So, if it was true in Roosevelt's time, it isn't true now. An American's citizenship can not be automatically forfeited.

Anyway, I would recommend. It was an enjoyable read.
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on 31 December 2015
A great book can inspire generations by perceptive characterisation and a meaningful take on the human condition. The farm that large, lugubrious and slightly backward Lennie and his companion George work on has a feel of anyplace, anytime near anytown. It's not a cheerful place, but has its' routines, had Steinbeck wanted, he could have asked Judy Garland to stop off there on the way to Oz. It might have cheered us all up, had she done so.

But there's something about misery, especially fatalistic misery, that is significant and may even help us consider our own direction of travel. Dickens was begged by readers of his penny magazines to end some of his books happily - but rightly refused.

Travelling to different places, hewing a rough living, dreaming of their own land, with rabbits for Lennie to pet, presumably a cathouse nearby for George to socialise in, without the insecurity, drudgery and hopelessness, makes this an aspirational novel. For a while. Until Lennie veers closer and closer to doing 'bad things', albeit, innocuously.

John Steinbeck didn't need to write a 964 page novel like War and Peace to capture emotion, loyalty, buddy-mentality and destiny. Curley's wife - never named, just an appendage of Curley - is as much a victim of fate as of circumstances. The mannerisms, boredom, dislike of her jealous husband and belief she could have become someone in Hollywood is the same now for wannabes on tv talent contests and reality shows. All that's missing is talent; this great book's got plenty of reality.

The climax is bitter, sad, but inevitable. Those horses in the barn are still clanging and rattling their halter chains, flies are still buzzing, Curley probably has a new wife - called Curley's wife - Candy, Crookes, Slim and the others are still breaking their backs, hoping for the American Dream to become a reality with their own purty little farm and cottage; but Lennie is petting no more.
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on 29 August 2017
A book I was supposed to read at school, but, hey, I'm nearly 48 now, so better late than never ! I loved this book - it captured the California landscape beautifully and the intertwined lives of the two main characters, George & Lennie, and their hopes & dreams for the future. Wonderfully written - Steinbeck is a descriptive writer and a great storyteller. This really is one of the best books I have ever read, and I look forward to reading more of his books
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on 5 January 2014
This is a mercifully thin book that tells a deep story very quickly. Right from the start we learn that Lennie is not right in the head; we're not sure to what extent he `has issues' but his comforts in life are a dead mouse that he plays with, and reassurance from his guiding hand, George, who has taken him under his wing. The dead mouse plays its part in preparing us for the senseless waste that is to follow and the indifference to it.

The two men are looking for work and headed to a ranch where the situation is set to explode. None of the characters in this book are attractive; nor are their situations any more appealing. More disturbing that any of the events in this book is the news that many schools (and even libraries) have banned it because of the racial prejudice shown by the characters in the book. This is rather like banning a book about a diamond robbery on the grounds that it contains illegal acts. Rather than allow our corrupt society to rewrite history and censor the past, we should be allowed to read this sort of book and judge for ourselves the sort of society that there was then and is now.

The hopelessness of the two men's plight is demonstrated in the final chapter. Don't look forward to a happy ending but prepare to be treated intelligently by a book that will stay with you for a long time.
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